Call for rural communities to speak up before BT hangs up ...

Would you miss the phone boxes?
Would you miss the phone boxes?

For generations of Fifers they were a lifeline – and a reassuring sight on every street corner.

But now the days of our public telephone booths are slowly fading from sight.

And more are set to vanish.

This week, BT announced plans to remove a third of Scotland’s payphones, including 141 from across Fife. Only the Highlands is slated to lose more than the Kingdom with 159 going from that region.

And rural villages and towns across north east Fife are set to bear the brunt.

Phone kiosks are set to go from raft of locations.

St Andrews is set to lose kiosks from Tom Morris Drive and at the university halls in Kennedy Gardens, while the list also includes Balmullo, Boarhills, Kingsbarns, Lathockar, and Leuchars.

There are further closures proposed across north-east Fife including Cupar, Anstruther, Colinsburgh, Pitscottie, New Gilston, Largoward, Dairsie, Bow of Fife, Dunshalt, Kingskettle, Kettlehill, Balmalcolm, Ladybank, Newburgh, Freuchie, Strathmiglo, and Newport-on-Tay.

Consultation over the removal of the kiosks ends this week– and locals have been urged to speak up before being cut-off

The hit list includes the landmark red phone box in Blebo Craigs where the plan has met with opposition.

Ken Cochran, secretary of Kemback, Pitscottie and Blebo Community Council, said the council had objected on the grounds that Blebo Craigs is a popular area for visiting walkers and emergency phone access for visitors should be maintained.

The council also highlighted weak mobile phone signal coverage in the village which cannot be relied on for emergency situations – and the phone box is a historical visual aspect of the village.

If the fight is lost, the council intends to make a bid to ‘adopt’ the kiosk for the village, although the phone service would be lost, and it has the backing of local politicians.

Councillor Karen Marjoram said not everyone had a mobile phone – and the signal locally was poor.

She said: “ I have been contacted by villagers who want the box to be kept. There is an assumption that everyone has mobiles but the signal here is very poor and this kiosk is very important to the community. A similar kiosk in Dura Den is listed and so it is being retained. I’d like to see the same being done here.”

Adding his support, Stephen Gethins MP said: “There are many areas where phone boxes have actually taken on a more prominent role in village life and we could develop that here.

“In Letham, for example, the phone box is where the community defibrillator is kept, and in other areas they are used as community libraries and mini greenhouses. There are so few places that we see these traditional red phone boxes and this one could be developed to become even more of an asset to the area.”

A BT spokesman said any removals would be with the approval of Fife Council, where required, and would adhere to the rules laid down by Ofcom.

She added: “With usage declining by over 90 per cent in the last decade, we’ve continued to review and remove payphones which are no longer needed.

“In all instances where there’s no other payphone within 400 metres, we’ll ask for consent from the local authority to remove the payphone. Where we receive objections from the local authority, we won’t remove it.’

“As an alternative to removal, we will continue to actively promote our Adopt a Kiosk scheme to all councils whilst being committed to maintaining the payphones that remain.”

BT says that almost one in four of its network of 4800 payphones handled fewer than five calls each over the past 12 months – and some 700 kiosks stood completely unused.

If the proposal goes ahead it’d leave around 3300 phone boxes in operation across the country – half the number that were available in 2003 .